A tool to take America’s pulse before the election, how to track your Reddit mentions and an extremely offline holiday

This week in digital tools for journalism

February 26, 2020
Category: Tech & Tools

This article originally appeared in Try This! — Tools for Journalism, our newsletter about digital tools. Want bite-sized news, tutorials and ideas about the best digital tools for journalism in your inbox every Tuesday? Sign up here.

The 2020 presidential election is coming, and America has thoughts. You can find them on social media, yes, but there’s certainly a better place. The Pew Research Center is one of the best sources of data about the country’s news habits and attitudes about what they hear, perceive and know about the upcoming elections. With Pew’s data explorer, that information is as easy to access as it’s ever been. Use it for context, use it to bolster your own understanding or just swim through and see what your compatriots (if you’re from the U.S.) are up to.

Reddit also has thoughts. Finding them is a bigger problem. Forrest Milburn, who does engagement for the Miami Herald, tweeted out a convenient solution for automatically monitoring Reddit for stories from your news organization. He also talks about why you’d want to do that. You just need a Zapier account, Slack and about 10 minutes.

The 11th annual National Day of Unplugging starts at sundown March 6. You don’t have to buy or bake anything to celebrate — just switch off your electronics for 24 hours and … I guess read a book or something? If you need a little help kicking the pixels, the National Day of Unplugging website offers toolkits, conversation starters and activity guides. And you know what? If you’re near St. Petersburg, Florida, I will bake you something.

The world is suddenly full of listening devices. That’s not a paranoid thought — every phone, smart watch, home security camera and smart home device could be snooping on every word you speak within range. Worse, there’s nothing much you can do about it short of moving to the woods. Or at least there wasn’t. Two computer scientists from the University of Chicago created what might be the world’s ugliest bracelet (it looks like a Tinkertoy designed by the Tin Man) that blocks all of those gadgets from listening to conversations. It doesn’t seem like you’ll be able to order one on Amazon any time soon (and certainly not through Alexa), but it’s good to know it’s possible to live in a quiet world.

You can quiet down Twitter, too. If you’re on an iPhone, you can long-press a word to mute it (here’s a video tutorial), meaning you won’t see any tweets that include that word anymore. If you’re on a computer, just go here to add words to mute them. Muting isn’t case sensitive and can include punctuation.

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Still looking for a content management system? Earlier this month, we profiled five online publishing systems you should consider. We just updated that post with demos of three of those systems so you can see them in action.

Really dumb misinformation is still misinformation. And sharing misinformation makes the world a less truthful place. That’s why I love this BBC video that tries out some of those viral “recipes” that always seem to be sprinkled in our social media news feeds. As it turns out, you can’t make a perfect flan by combining a bunch of ingredients into a milk carton, you can’t melt gummy bears to make an “easy DIY” dessert and you can’t microwave a whole ear of corn in a bag to get popcorn. Think before you share (and before you get food poisoning!).

Leverage, stakeholder, value-add, disruption, shareability, sync. The workplace seems to be a fertile spawning ground for garbage language. It ruins meetings. It ruins days. It ruins jobs. “No matter where I’ve worked,” writes Molly Young for Vulture, “it has always been obvious that if everyone agreed to use language in the way that it is normally used, which is to communicate, the workday would be two hours shorter.” Amen to that.

Punch in your name, get some context about your life. This is a neat little website that shows, once again, a story doesn’t always have to be a linear set of paragraphs.

Journalists really like making visualizations of Michael Bloomberg’s money. They’re also really good at it. The Washington Post’s is a static (and stunning) look at how much Bloomberg has spent as a Democratic candidate for president, while Mother Jones built a video to show just how much dough he has compared to his rivals (and other big-money institutions, like the NBA).

Ren LaForme is Poynter’s digital tools reporter. He can be reached at ren@poynter.org or on Twitter at @itsren.

Try This! is supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.